Whether you are a digital nomad or a freelancer who wants to work remotely from Dubai or the capital city Abu Dhabi or anywhere in the United Arab Emirates, we have some good news for you. The UAE digital nomad visa will allow you to stay in the country for a period of up to a year with the possibility to extend or renew.
There are so many reasons the UAE makes an excellent destination for remote workers. The mega infrastructure, luxury lifestyle, dreamy resorts, futuristic skyscrapers, and thriving business environment of the UAE, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, attract millions of tourists each year. In 2019, 16.73 million tourists visited Dubai.
However, living in the Emirates as a digital nomad comes with a price. But despite the high cost of living, Dubai still counts as one of the best cities in the world for digital nomads.
In this article, you will find out everything you need to know to get your UAE digital nomad visa, whether it is worth getting one, how to apply, or whether you are eligible for the most wanted digital nomad visa in the world.
UAE digital nomad visa overview
In March 2021, the UAE cabinet introduced a five-year multiple-entry tourist visa for all nationalities. At the same time, they introduced the Remote Working Visa scheme, which allows foreign nationals to live and work in the country for one year. The remote working visa applies only to remote workers who work for employers outside of the UAE or are self-employed, able to self-sponsorship, and sponsor other dependants traveling with them.
The goal of the UAE digital nomad visas is to attract more talents, entrepreneurs, and experts from all over the world to further develop the already thriving business environment. In return, remote workers will have access to world-class utilities, and telecoms, and live tax-free all the while enjoying the beauty and grandeur of one of the best and richest cities in the world, Dubai.
However, living the good life in the UAE comes with a price. Not every remote worker will be able to apply as the requirements for some are impossible to meet.
UAE digital nomad visa requirements
The following list contains all the documents required for a successful UAE remote work visa application:
- A passport with a minimum of 6 months validity.
- A passport photo no older than 6 months.
- Accommodation reservations. It is important to know that the Embassy encourages applicants to hold off purchasing flights and accommodation until their visa is approved. Reservations will suffice.
- UAE health insurance or health insurance with valid UAE coverage or travel insurance with healthcare coverage. The latter can be changed to UAE health insurance once your visa is approved.
- Employers need to provide proof of employment from the current employer with a one-year contract validity.
- Employers need to provide proof of a minimum of $5,000 monthly income or $60,000 per year.
- Employers need to provide last month’s payslip including the past three bank statements.
- Business owners must show proof of ownership of their company for at least one year.
- Business owners also need to have an average monthly income of $5,000
- Business owners also need to show three preceding months’ bank statements.
Do I need a digital nomad visa for UAE?
Tourists and remote workers traveling to UAE can enter and stay in the country with a tourist visa. However, some nationalities are not eligible for this visa. If you are not eligible for a visa on arrival or a visa-free entry to the UAE, you can apply for a tourist visa, which will allow you to stay in the UAE anywhere from 30-90 days.
For those looking to stay longer than 90 days, the digital nomad visa is the best choice, provided you meet the above-mentioned requirements.
Who can apply for a digital nomad visa in the UAE?
There are no nationality restrictions on who can apply for a UAE digital nomad visa. As long as the applicants meet all the above requirements, everyone is welcome to apply.
UAE digital nomad visa application process
It is very easy to apply for the Emirate’s new remote work visa. You can apply either from your home country or once you enter the UAE. Once you have gathered all of the required documents, you can send them along with the filled-in online application form, either online or through accredited typing centers.
The processing fee is $287 and is non-refundable. The processing time is typically from 30 to 60 days. One of the best things about the UAE remote working permit is that once you obtain the visa, you can apply for dependants to join you, including spouse/partner, children, and parents.
Unlike remote work visas in some other countries where you can not renew or extend the stay, the UAE allows digital nomads to reapply once their visa is expired. The visa could be extended for another 12 months as long as the applicant still meets the requirements.
Benefits of the UAE remote working visa
There are many benefits of the United Arab Emirates remote work visa. First, all digital nomads are welcome to apply (as long as they work for an employer outside the UAE). Second, the virtual working program grants remote workers all the standard services that residents benefit from including schooling, the use of the high-standard healthcare system, telecommunications, utilities, and more.
All remote workers who have obtained the digital nomad visa are issued an Emirates ID. This means that you can rent a house, open bank accounts, apply for bank loans, get phone lines, enroll your kids in the local schools, be it public or private, and more.
Moreover, you get to live in the UAE and not pay taxes, as the personal and income tax is 0%. You can obtain your UAE Tax Residency certificate with the digital nomad visa.
Travel in and out of the United Arab Emirates is also permitted as long as the digital nomad doesn’t stay out of the country for more than 6 consecutive months. In such cases, the visa will be automatically nullified.
The differences between UAE digital nomad visa and the Dubai visa
This part can be very confusing to remote workers, so pay special attention when participating in the virtual working program. If you are already in Dubai, on a Dubai visa, you can not relocate to other cities in the United Arab Emirates. But, you can, however, apply for a UAE visa while in Dubai and once you have been approved for the UAE visa, you can relocate to any city in the Emirates.
The new visa from Dubai’s virtual work program is only applicable to foreign workers who don’t have any UAE visas. So, if you already have a residence permit, or you are going through the visa application process, you can’t apply for a Dubai visa.
The Dubai visa application fee is the same as the UAE and adds up to $611 USD per person after paying for medical insurance with UAE coverage and other additional processing fees.
Living in Dubai
Dubai is ranked among the top 5 cities in the world for remote work. There are many reasons to justify the high ranking starting with extensive business opportunities, safety, excellent quality of life, no income tax, and many more.
For all foreign workers who want to work remotely from Dubai, you’d be happy to know that Dubai offers many co-working spaces and coffee shops from where you can work. The most popular are Arrows and Sparrows, A4 Space, and QUERTY to name a few. If you prefer working in nature, most Dubai beaches offer free wi-fi so you can dig your toes in the sand, sip a cocktail and make money at the same time.
Compared to other more popular digital nomad destinations like Ashgabat, Hong Kong, New York, London, and Singapore, the cost of living in Dubai is much lower. Monthly expenses for a single person add up to AED 3,477.89 (USD 946,88). Renting a flat in the city center costs about AED 5,141.89 (USD 1 399,92), while taxi fares are AED 2.48 (USD 0.68) per kilometer. A liter of petrol costs around AED 2.47 (USD 0.67).
Most of the budget (around 30%) is put into accommodation, followed by transportation and food. Naturally, the bigger the family the higher the expenses, that is why the monthly salary for a digital nomad visa is higher than $5,000 when applying for dependants.
The annual tuition for public schools is AED 6,000 (USD 1,635), while it costs on average between AED 13,630 (USD 3,710) and 21,400 AED (USD 5,826)per year to send your kids to international or private schools. If you have kids ready for college it may cost you a little more than that. Undergraduate degree or a graduate degree ranges from AED 173,400 (USD $47,209) or AED 54,800 to 82,200 (USD $14,919-22,379) respectively.
This means that monthly wages of $5,000 will be more than enough to enjoy the best you can in Dubai. Moreover, Dubai is an excellent location if you want to explore other countries in the Middle East, as the flights from there are non-stop and frequent.
What other types of visa can I get to live and work remotely in UAE?
Currently, there are 6 types of visas and entry permits for the UAE:
- Tourist visas. Issued for tourism purposes, valid from 30-60 days. If you overstay your tourist visa, expect to pay a fine of AED 100 for each day that you have overstayed.
- Medical Entry permit/Medical treatment visa (UAE Patient Entry Permit). Issued to patients requiring medical treatment in the UAE, valid for 90 days from the day of entry.
- E-Visa for GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) residents. Only applicable online and must have before arriving in the country. It is valid from 30 to 90 days either single or multi-entry.
- Transit Visa. Issued to nationalities that are not eligible for visas on arrival or a visa-free entry to the UAE for the purpose of transiting through UAE airports. It is valid for 48 hours or for 96 hours.
- Student Visa. Issued to expat students who are over 18 years and residing in the UAE. The government of the UAE grants outstanding students with a long-term visa of 5 years.
- Retirement Visa for Residents. This visa grants applicants permanent residency. The requirements are as follows: the applicants must be 55 or older, have valid UAE health insurance, earn AED 20,000 (around $5,500)per month, have AED 1 million in cash savings, or own property worth AED 2 million.
Cost of living in the UAE
Contrary to popular opinion, the cost of living in the United Arab Emirates is similar to most western countries like the US, the UK, and other Western European countries. Eastern European countries are indeed way cheaper to live in as a digital nomad, but they may not have the grandeur the mega cities in the desert of the UAE have.
In the UAE, a family of four has on average monthly costs of AED 11,074 ($3,015 USD) without rent, while a single person spends approximately AED 3,178($865 USD) per month without rent. Monthly wages of $5, 000 will certainly be more than enough to enjoy a good quality of life in the UAE.
Digital nomads will find it easy to work remotely from the UAE in terms of internet speed. Not many countries in the world have strong wifi connections which is a big issue for remote workers attending meetings and making zoom calls. One of the reasons the UAE, and especially Dubai, is a top choice for digital nomads is indeed the fast internet connection.
While the average internet speed is above 30 Mbps, most areas where expats live have speed of over 100 Mbps. The network is 4G and almost 99% of the population is online.
UAE, especially Dubai has become a top digital nomad destination, despite the high cost of living. If you don’t mind the hot desert climate, you can stay in the country with the new digital nomad visas and work remotely from any city in the UAE.
These new remote work visas are easy to apply for as long as you meet the requirements. The documents required are similar to other countries’ visa requirements. They include healthcare coverage, or travel insurance with a UAE coverage validity, valid passport, proof of monthly salary, ownership of a company (for a business owner), and bank statements.
The application fees are $287USD per person but they add up to $611 USD after additional processing fees like pre-application medical exam and travel medical insurance valid in the UAE and other processing costs.
The only downfall, however, is that you will have to make a minimum of $5,000 a month to be able to apply.
Once your one-year visa is approved, you are provided Emirates ID which you will use frequently. The new virtual working program allows holders of the remote work visa to enjoy the same benefits UAE residents have including opening a bank account, getting a bank loan, renting housing, enrolling their kids in school or college, getting a phone line, using all the utilities and telecommunications and more all the while not paying local taxes.
If it already sounds like a dream come true, you will find more information about the UAE remote work visa at the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs, and Ports Security.